How Does Space Maintenance Work?

In an ideal world, children would lose their primary teeth and their permanent teeth would be ready to grow in. Unfortunately, things don’t always work that way. Children experience tooth decay or injury that results in early tooth loss. When this happens a dentist may recommend a space maintainer.

If your child’s dentist has recommended space maintainers, you may be wondering if it is really necessary. We will take a closer look at why space maintainers are needed, when they should be considered, and what options may be available to your child.

Why are Dental Space Maintainers Needed

Each and every tooth in your mouth has a small, designated space in which it is supposed to grow. If the tooth grows at a slight angle or shifts, it could cause problems for not only that tooth but all the teeth that surround it. Problems that can happen include overcrowding, gaps, and even tooth loss.

A dental space maintainer is uniquely designed to help teeth grow in their proper place. When a child loses a tooth before the permanent tooth is ready to grow in that leaves a huge space that can interfere with the proper growth of surrounding teeth. The placement of a dental space maintainer holds a space in the mouth for the permanent tooth to grow in at a later date. Holding the space allows other surrounding teeth to continue to grow at their own pace without shifting, crowding, or becoming misaligned.

When Should Dental Space Maintainers be Considered

Dental space maintainers should be considered any time a child loses his or her primary teeth. In some situations, such as natural tooth loss that occurs when a permanent tooth is about to grow in, a dental space maintainer may not be needed. However, other times a space maintainer may be needed to avoid dental problems in the future.

Some situations where dental space maintainers may be needed include:

  • Tooth loss as a result of extensive decay
  • An injury to a primary tooth that damages to the point it needs to be extracted
  • Trauma to the tooth that completely knocks the tooth out before it is ready to naturally fall out

Before a dentist will recommend a dental space maintainer, he or she will conduct a brief oral examination. The dentist will be looking at the space that was created by the loss of a tooth and even how soon permanent teeth may grow in. If there is only a small period of time when the space will be left empty, a dental space maintainer might not be recommended.

A Close Look at the Various Types of Dental Space Maintainers

There are two types of space maintainers that can be recommended for your child. The type types are removal maintainers and fixed maintainers. Both types of space maintainers are designed to perform the same function – hold a space in your child’s mouth – but they do so in different ways.

A removable space maintainer is made out of acrylic and uses tooth-colored artificial teeth to mimic the size and shape of a real tooth. These space maintainers can easily be removed without the help of a dentist.

Removable space maintainers are often used for older patients as they can easily pop in and out. They are also used when there are multiple teeth missing or the space that was created is large.

The other option available for dental space maintainers is a fixed maintainer. Fixed maintainers are actually attached to the surrounding teeth and do not pop in and out of the mouth. These space maintainers are often used for younger children and when the tooth that is missing is in the back of the mouth.

Things to Consider When Getting a Dental Space Maintainer

Getting a dental space maintainer is not a decision you should make lightly. There are several things you should consider include:

  • Age of your child
  • How many teeth are missing
  • Where the teeth are missing from
  • When permanent teeth will grow in
  • Budget
  • Ability to commit to multiple dental appointments as the space maintainer will need to be adjusted and/or removed

If you believe your child may be in need of a space maintainer, call Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist.